By Nisthar Cassim
Prime Minster President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday confirmed that the Government would seek a two-thirds majority at the upcoming General Elections to change the Constitution.
|Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa|
“There are issues with the 19th Amendment as well as the present electoral system. Currently, we are a minority Government and at the next Parliamentary Election we will seek a two-thirds mandate from the people so we can make the desired changes to the Constitution and the electoral system,” Rajapaksa said at his first meeting with press editors for the new year.
He assured that all stakeholders would be consulted as well before any changes to the Constitution and electoral system were made.
When asked why the Government had now decided to object to the 19th Amendment when it had voted for the legislation when it was in the Opposition, Rajapaksa and several Ministers who were at the meeting claimed that a promise was given that the 20th Amendment would follow the 19th Amendment.
Speaking on the need to improve the electoral system, Minister Dallas Alahapperuma said some strong elements within the current system would be retained while incorporating the new amendments.
He recalled that since the introduction of the Proportional Representation (PR) system in 1988, there had been seven General Elections but only twice had the winning party mustered an overwhelming majority. One was under President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1989 and the other instance came when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected in 2010 soon after the end of the 30-year-old war.
“The fact that this has occurred only twice confirms that the winning party, when attempting to form a Government, is at the mercy of smaller and minority parties who look to further their narrow agendas. If we are to be progressive as a nation we need to have strong governments. This does not necessarily mean a perpetual government or one party ruling the country nor does it mean minorities are sidelined,” Alahapperuma explained.
He also said that a Select Committee on Electoral Reforms -led by Dinesh Gunawardena few years ago came up with very valid recommendations for a better electoral system but they weren’t considered. He implied the new Government will champion these recommendations in reforming the electoral system.